Obama to visit Hiroshima, won't apologize for World War II bombing

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President Obama to Make Historic Visit to Hiroshima

WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) - Barack Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in Japan later this month, but he will not apologize for the United States' dropping of an atomic bomb on the city in World War Two, the White House said on Tuesday.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency in 2009 in part for his commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, Obama on May 27 will visit the site of the world's first nuclear bomb attack with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

With the end of his last term in office approaching in January 2017, Obama will "highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the White House said in a statement.

"He will not revisit the decision to use the atomic bomb at the end of World War II. Instead, he will offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future," U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes wrote in a separate blog.

Look back at the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima:

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Looking back: Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima
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Obama to visit Hiroshima, won't apologize for World War II bombing
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Hiroshima after the dropping of the atom bomb in August 1945. USAF photograph. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Survivors of the explosion of the Atom bomb at Hiroshima 1945 suffering the effects of radiation. ICRC photograph. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
World War II, after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
World War II, after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
World War II, firestorms after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
1945: Atomic bomb damage at Hiroshima with a burnt out fire engine amidst the rubble. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
World War II, Human shadow on bank steps, in Hiroshima after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
World War II, after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945 Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
World War II, shadow of a tap on a pipeline at Hiroshima after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Japan. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
6th August 1945: The twisted wreckage of a theatre, located 800 metres from the epicentre of the atomic explosion at Hiroshima. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN: This September 1945 file picture shows the remaining of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industry Promotion Building, known as the Atomic-Bomb Dome, which was later preserved as a monument. (Photo credit should read AFP/Getty Images)
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 26: Atomic Bomb Dome stands among fallen autumn leaves at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on November 26, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan. (Photo by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images)
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The visit comes as part of a May 20-28 swing through Asia, which will include a Group of Seven summit in Japan and a visit to Vietnam. It will be the 10th trip to the region for Obama, who has tried to make a foreign policy "pivot" toward Asia.

On the final day of the summit in Japan, Obama and Abe will visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park near the spot where a U.S. warplane dropped an atomic bomb 71 years ago at the end of World War Two. There have been concerns that a U.S. presidential visit would be controversial in the United States if it were seen as an apology.

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The bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945 killed thousands of people instantly and about 140,000 by the end of that year. Another was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, and Japan surrendered six days later.

The majority of Americans view the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as justified to end the war and save U.S lives, while most Japanese see it as unjustified.

Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo, said he hoped "to turn this into an opportunity for the U.S. and Japan to together pay tribute to the memories of the victims" of the nuclear bombing.

"President Obama visiting Hiroshima and expressing toward the world the reality of the impact of nuclear radiation will contribute greatly to establishing a world without nuclear arms," Abe added.

After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month, survivors of the bombing and other residents said that if Obama visits, they hope for progress in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, rather than an apology.

Kerry toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, calling the museum's haunting displays "gut-wrenching." The displays include photographs of badly burned victims, the tattered and stained clothes they wore and statues depicting them with flesh melting from their limbs.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy also recently traveled to the city, according to Rhodes, adding that it was "the appropriate moment" Obama to visit.

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